Apr 19, 2022 - Economy & Business

Amazon must reinstate fired warehouse worker, judge rules

Chris Smalls, a fired Amazon fulfillment center employee, center, speaks during a protest outside an Amazon.com facility in the Staten Island borough of New York, U.S., on Friday, May 1, 2020.

A protest outside an Amazon.com facility in the Staten Island borough of New York in May 2020. Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon must reinstate a former warehouse worker who was fired after a protest against the e-commerce giant's working conditions at its Staten Island facility early in the pandemic, a judge ruled Monday. Amazon said it will appeal the ruling.

Why it matters: In his decision, administrative law judge Benjamin Green agreed with the National Labor Relations Board's findings that Gerald Bryson was fired for protesting safety conditions in April 2020, which he said was "unlawful." He ruled that Bryson was owed back pay for "discriminatory discharge."

The big picture: Amazon has said it fired Bryson for violating its policy against "vulgar and harassing language" after getting into a dispute with a female associate during the protest.

  • The decision notes that the NLRB found that the woman tried to provoke Bryson during an exchange and that she told him, "Go back to the Bronx" — which he "could reasonably construe" as racial "since he is African American," Green said.
  • Bryson testified that he reported the incident to a manager, who denied this. But the judge found it unlikely Bryson would "fail to convey such a prominent remark," accusing Amazon of a "rush to judgement and skewed investigation" after the incident.

What he's saying: "For me to win and walk back through those doors changes everything," Bryson told the New York Times Monday. "It will show that Amazon can be beat. It will show you have to fight for what you believe in."

The other side: Amazon said in a statement to news outlets that it "strongly" disagrees with the ruling and was "surprised the NLRB would want any employer to condone Mr. Bryson’s behavior."

  • "Mr. Bryson was fired for bullying, cursing at and defaming a female co-worker over a bullhorn in front of the workplace," the company added. "We do not tolerate that type of conduct in our workplace and intend to file an appeal with the NLRB."

Flashback: The ruling comes after Amazon workers at a Staten Island warehouse voted to unionize earlier this month.

Read the decision in full, via DocumentCloud:

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